Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Embarrassing

My previous post should have been titled "Dancing Alerions".

I hope you will forgive this airplane pilot and son of an aeronautical engineer for thinking the name of the boat was "Aileron" rather than Alerion. Good grief Charlie Brown.

Alerion refers to a noble eagle. Aileron refers to the moveable surface on the outer portion of an airplane wing which is used to induce roll about the longitudinal axis. For me, the latter sprang to mind and that's what I wrote. Since sails work in the same way as wings, I think the mistake is understandable.

Sorry about that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dancing Ailerons

All the weather predictions went out the window on Sunday and with them, our sailing plans. We went to the harbor anyway.

This is rice harvesting season in these parts. Near the lake, there were several farmers cutting it the old fashioned way - well, without a combine anyway - and hanging it to dry on racks in the field. Latter they can winnow the grain and use the stalks for many purposes, everything from mulch to braided slippers and rope, to compost for mushrooms.

Instead of the forecast 5 knots, the wind was 12 to 15 knots, making for some chop and white caps on the lake. Not our kind of day - even the larger fishing boats had come back early. The only sail on the lake was a lone windsurfer.

Our only company was a crab shell. Reminded me of Baydog for some reason. Well, not Baydog himself mind you, but his post with a crab restaurant in it.

The upside was that I got to finish sanding and waxing the transom and putting on the plastic strips which I hope will keep the boom from scratching and nicking the gelcoat. Kimie had brought along a book to read when she wasn't helping me (Anne Frank in English).

I noticed that the bridle to which the main sheet attaches had started to wear at the point where it goes through the deck, so I bought a new piece of line and replaced that. Not into waiting until it starts to look really bad and risk having it let loose while under way - I don't think that would be much fun.

So at least the day was productive. And of course, we had a nice lunch. Kimie had pork curry and rice, and I had pasta with smoked duck (a pit too spicy with ground pepper for my taste, but otherwise nice), asparagus stems and mushrooms.

Alas, poor Daffy! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest...

Mama treated us to her "panna cotta" for desert - made without dairy.

Nice texture and not too sweet. The "mushroom" on top has a cookie stem and chocolate hood.

As I have no sailing pics to share, I hope you'll enjoy this video of "dancing Ailerons" - Aileron 20's showing off to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In" (By Rebirth Brass Band . Nice 'bone and tuba soli!).

W.D. Schock (builders of the Lido 14) makes a day sailor that looks very similar - the Harbor 20 - and it's a good thing we don't live near a bigger lake, or I'd be sorely pressed to resist the temptation to own one. (Don't worry Kimie, as long as you'll be my crew, I'll stick with Bluesette).

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Things Take Longer Than They Do

I had planned to catch up on some maintenance on Friday, while Kimie was at work. Last year I kept an inexpensive bike at Hinuma station so that I could take the train up there and ride the bike to the harbor from the station. However, after only one season the exposed metal was rusted, requiring a complete overhaul. Also, I was always concerned that something would happen with it and I would arrive to find flat tires, or that the whole bike had gone missing.

I haven't been doing much riding this summer in the 90+ºF heat, so haven't needed the bike at Hinuma. I have found a better solution to leaving a bike at the station anyway - a Brompton folding bicycle which I can take with me on the train.

The saddle bag carries a cover (required on trains in Japan). It takes just a minute or two to unfold or fold and is light enough to carry up the station stairs without difficulty. It also has two luggage sized wheels which allow one to pull it along when it is folded. Mine is a 3 speed and it rides even better than the bike it replaces.

Friday was my first trip to the lake with it and it worked like a charm. The weather was nice too, as the temperature had backed off into the mid 80's F.

I had a number of tasks I wanted to complete. First was to check to see if water had gotten into the boat during the storm we had this week - remnants of a typhoon which dumped a lot of rain here. Yes, some had, due to three small holes in the boat cover. Those holes had been previously patched, but the patches were worn out and in need of replacement. I found that the jib, which was laying in the bottom of the boat was wet. So first job, lay out the jib to dry and patch the holes with a more permanent material. I also put some lubricant on the jib snaps that attach it to the forestay to make them easier to use, cleaned up the mast and replaced a worn nylon cleat. An hour gone already! Lunch time.

I rode the bike down to Mama's and though they were curious as to Kimie's whereabouts, was served another great lunch. This time, flounder with a thick, sweet shoyu sauce and slivered ginger on top.

Horenso (spinach), tofu, rice, marinated (spicy) stems of wakame (a seaweed, the leaves of which are used in soup), miso soup with shijimi (lake clams), and karei - flounder (with roe).

With Kimie absent, there was no desert (thankfully) but Mama brought me a delicious glass of iced green tea instead.

Fifty minutes lunch break, so back to work. The next agenda was to try out a solution for Bluesette's dinged up transom. (The transom, for my non-sailor readers, is the "back end" of the boat.)

The classic Lido 14 had a track and car system for the mainsheet to travel on, so a metal track covered the transom and protected it from the boom when one lowered the mainsail. The new model - hull #6000 and above, uses a bridle attached at either side of the transom so the transom itself is unprotected and the boom can, and does scratch the gel coat, especially when you lower the mainsail on a windy day.


An hour of wet sanding with 3 grades of paper and buffing with rubbing compound, I had this:
Better, but not quite good enough

My "solution", once I get the finish back to where I want it, is to lay clear plastic car door bumper strips across the transom. I found some just the right length so that there will be a short one where the rudder cutout is and a longer one on each side. They will no doubt prevent scratches, but the question is whether or not they will stay on. Since they are designed to stick to car doors, I'm hoping the glue is strong enough.

That test will have to wait. As it would take twenty minutes or so just to put everything away, I was out of time if I were to catch the train home. I should have remembered the universal law of time: Things take longer than they do. (Though, paradoxically, the trains here run on time.) As it was, I just made it to the platform as the train pulled into the station. Whew.

We'll be sailing again tomorrow. Sometime next week I'll go back to work on the transom again. This time I'll take an earlier train up and a later one home and hopefully complete the task.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Red Hot Chili Peppers

A fair amount of wind at the lake today - 10 knots (11.5 mph) - which kept us busy and Kimie wet, but took our minds off the heat. This summer has been the hottest on record for Japan since they began keeping records in 1898. Still, a beautiful, if a little hazy, summer day on the lake.

Note: Meteorologists say 17 nations have recorded all-time-high temperatures this year, more than in any other year, and scientists have said that July was the hottest month on record for the world's oceans.

In the process of leaving the dock, the mainsheet got hooked on the lee transom corner which kept me from pointing up much until I could take care of it. Maybe I wasn't too clear headed, having been hit in the face with the boom while still at the dock. Anyway, we were soon overtaking two Seahoppers (Laser size boats) and we were to windward, but not pointing as high as them due to the mainsheet hitch, so I had to slow down and pass behind them. As we did so, two fish jumped in parallel crossing our bow between us and the other boats, while a third fish jumped the in other direction. Where was the guy with a camera behind us capturing that whole scene? It was poetry in motion. Three sailboats, three jumping fish, two of each going one way, the third going another.

While the wind was fun, it made for lousy photo ops. Every time I went to pick up the camera, the rail of Bluesette would go into the water and I'd have to respond. My attempted video failed completely. So, this time you get to see just body parts - Kimie's arm, feet.... I've got more pics, but I won't share them as they are of things like a corner of my shorts leg, the clew of the mainsail, a blurred shot of the centerboard trunk. Exciting stuff like that.

Kimie did get this thrilling shot of one of the rows of stakes we passed.

We blasted around the lake. I almost managed an accidental jibe on a downwind leg weaving around fishing trap poles. That was exciting - in a bad way (well, it wasn't really close, but got my adrenalin going at the prospect). For my non-sailing friends an accidental jibe causes the boom to swing violently across the boat. It can also lead to a "death roll" where the boat rolls over on it's side very fast.

I loved the wind on reaches though, as we were very fast as we slipped between rows of fish trap poles, some of which are laid out in grids with about 6 meters between rows. Of course, Kimie (aka "Splashguard" - I'm thinking of having that put on a t-shirt for her) got soaking wet as we plowed through the chop. We got hungry and thirsty too as the wind was making it difficult to manage even getting a drink or Soyjoy bar. We decided to go in at about 1 o'clock.

Docking was simple. the wind was 90º to the dock and blowing strong so Kimie would not be able to jump on the dock without precariously stepping to the bow. I've seen too many people fall doing that.

It would also be very difficult to use the grappling hook and pull us alongside the dock in this wind, so I slipped over the side with the bowline in hand and tied us up, then helped get the sails down and rudder stowed while standing in the water. As I've written before, it's not very flashy but it works. And with me what works and is safe is what counts.

It was perhaps close to two by the time we got to Mama's for lunch. We were in for treats, as always.

Kimie had pasta with eggplant and scallops. Mama came to the table with a couple of spice options for her - Tobasco sauce and something called Shimatogarashi - island chile pepper - a specialty of Okinawa. Well, of course the Shimatogarashi had to be tried. Kimie wisely used it sparingly in one little area at a time. It was quite hot, but she says very flavorful. I'll leave the spice testing to her.

Red hot chili peppers! Shimatogarashi. Note: This picture is cropped in deference to a certain crew member (Splashguard) who doesn't like the full frame version. Click on the above pic if you want to see the objectionable version. Personally, I like it.

I had the following -
Salad, bamboo shoots with konnyaku*, rice, spinach stalks, miso soup, and akauo - red rockfish.

The red rockfish was wonderful. This is one spiny critter and difficult to handle when preparing, but inside, the fish is meaty and not at all bony. Mama simmered it a long time this morning in some sauce (shoyu and mirin I'm guessing), which made it tender and very tasty.

And of course, there was dessert. Not that I needed it or expected it, but who could refuse?

Kimie had cheesecake and I was served Mama's version of that lovely Italian dish - tiramisu. Mama even served Kimie a small dish of tiramisu, which was nice as I didn't have to share mine. ;^)

*konnyaku is something of a Japanese wonder health food. It has a strong gelatin like texture that takes a little getting used to. Made from the konnyaku potato, it has been shown to lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, and normalize cholesterol. It contains a lot of fiber. Great stuff, with a nice mild flavor to it.

To top off a great day on the lake, this was our 11th launch of season, which made it a free one. (Every ten launches earns a freebie). At ¥2625 that more than paid for lunch.

Until next, sweet sailing.

PS No, I don't like songs by "Red hot chili peppers", the band. I all sounds the same to me. Noise. They need trombones, obviously.